One of the biggest points of feedback we hear from our graduates, reflecting on their time at our campuses surrounds their first few days or first week in treatment: “I was so nervous my first week, but something shifted and I am so grateful I stayed.” “The first few days were really hard, but it was the best thing I ever did.” “It took me a couple of days to adjust, but once I did, everything changed.” Without a doubt, the first few days in a rehab program can be some of the most challenging. For many people who graduate from our programs, who once spent years, even decades addicted to substances – opening up, becoming vulnerable and accepting true help in treatment wasn’t easy. Throughout their addictions, masking their true feelings and true selves were a way of life: They hated to cry in front of anyone; they never shared their emotions; they picked up the bottle, pills or needle, and kept their guards up. Those same graduates, however, say becoming vulnerable and peeling back those layers – is what taught them to love themselves for who they are, and ultimately, saved their lives Addiction isn’t just about the drug or the drink being used, it’s about what’s going on behind the scenes and is causing a person to drink or use drugs. For this reason, it’s incredibly important to slowly break down the walls. The following are three things our clients learn while opening up in addiction rehab:
- Feeling, showing and sharing emotions doesn’t make you weak.
As a culture, we tend to believe that even appearing to be emotional is a sign of weakness. We’re taught at a young age to withhold our feelings because those feelings – could cause shame. Because of this, we doubt our ability to tolerate certain emotions and so, we avoid them. Feeling, showing and sharing emotions, however, doesn’t make you weak. Being aware of your feelings and making a conscious decision to share them appropriately is actually a sign of strength. Emotions are beneficial when we are able to learn from them: They show us our strengths and weaknesses. Being able to talk about and address our feelings means we learn how to take action, and in turn, that makes us stronger.
- It’s OK to not be OK.
That sadness, hurt, guilt and disconnect that can come creeping into life at various times admittedly doesn’t feel good. While these are common emotions at some point or another, most of us view them as things that need to resolved or replaced with better emotions – as soon as possible. We’re asked whether we want to “sit around and feel sad about it” or “brush it off and move on” – as if those things are two opposite forces. Instead of brushing off the “not OK” feelings as we’re often asked to do – sometimes, we need to operate inside of our emotions. Feeling sad, hurt or disconnected can be tough to go through – but we aren’t weak or wrong for feeling that way. Being honest about the feelings that we are experiencing can make us stronger, and in turn, can help us to make better decisions – and ultimately lead us back to the “OK.”
- People aren’t as judgmental as you might think.
If you watch any reality television shows, click around on social media or even just the comments on a local news station story online – you might be inclined to think that people are inherently cruel and judgmental. You may worry about acting a certain way or saying the wrong thing, so you censor every move and every word – and replay conversations and interactions over and over in your head after the fact. I’m here to tell you that when you surround yourself with people who care for you and support you, they won’t judge you for crying when you need to cry or laughing when you need to laugh. In fact, most of them will want to take the time to fully understand what’s going through your head to make you want to cry – or want to join in on the laughter. As the people that don’t know you? They probably don’t care whether you cry or laugh – or react in any other natural emotion. There is good in the world and people are often more compassionate than you might think. Vulnerability in addiction recovery doesn’t make you weak – in fact, it makes you stronger because:
- It means others can help you.
My grandfather used to tell me, “You don’t know what you can get unless you ask.” This holds true in so many aspects of life, including recovery. Once you tell others what is going on, and what you want or need – you’ll be able to open the doors to a much better way of living.
- It means you can help yourself.
You don’t need to put on a tough act in order to help yourself. In fact, in order to make changes and move forward from your addiction, you’ll need to become vulnerable enough to begin making improvements in your life.
- You’ll actually be able to experience happiness.
One of the biggest reasons people become addicted to drugs or alcohol is because they’ve turned to it to numb negative emotions. In short term, this numbness means experiencing less heartache. However, numbness also means experiencing less joy. Becoming vulnerable in addiction recovery will mean being able to experience all of life’s emotions in order to truly enjoy life. The first few days – even weeks of inpatient addiction rehab can be some of the most challenging for individuals because they’re afraid to take down the walls they’ve built in their addictions. Once they’re able to let go and open up, they’re able to discover a part of themselves they never knew existed – a person that they can love, and that others can love too.